Dienhart: A look at 4 B1G teams' Big Dance dreams
There are five teams that look to be locks for NCAA bids: Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. But four other schools enter the final week of action making pushes for the Big Dance: Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana. Of course, each team could earn a NCAA bid by winning the Big Ten tourney in Indianapolis, which begins March 13. But short of that, what does each team need to do to make it as an at-large squad?
Here is a look at the NCAA recipe for each Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana to earn a bid.
BEST SHOT: Minnesota: 18-12 overall; 7-10 Big Ten
Strength of schedule: 3
Games left: Penn State
Good wins: at Richmond; Florida State; Ohio State; Wisconsin; Iowa
Bad losses: Northwestern; at Purdue
NCAA ticket recipe: Richard Pitino’s crew has the best shot of the four Big Ten hopefuls. The Golden Gophers need to beat Penn State in Minneapolis and then win one Big Ten tourney game. Easy-peasy, right? A win over last-place Penn State coupled with two wins in the Big Ten tourney would erase any doubt about Minnesota making a return trip to the NCAA tourney.
Listen to coach Richard Pitino’s teleconference:
GOOD SHOT: Nebraska: 17-11 overall; 9-7 Big Ten
Strength of schedule: 35
Games left: at Indiana; Wisconsin
Good wins: Ohio State; at Michigan State
Bad losses: UAB; at Purdue; at Penn State
NCAA recipe: Nebraska has some nice wins and OK RPI and strength-of-schedule numbers. If the Cornhuskers can close out with wins at Indiana and vs. Wisconsin—a tall task—and win one Big Ten tourney game, they are in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1998 when Troy Piatkowski, Cookie Belcher and Tyronn Lue led the Huskers to the Big Dance. I just love typing those names.
Listen to coach Tim Miles’ teleconference:
LONG SHOT: Illinois: 17-12 overall; 6-10 Big Ten
Strength of Schedule: 47
Games left: Michigan; at Iowa
Good wins: at UNLV; Missouri; at Minnesota; at Michigan State
Bad losses: at Georgia Tech; at Northwestern; Purdue
NCAA recipe: It’s all seemingly right there for Illinois, which lacks a decent RPI but has some nice wins and few bad losses. Beat quality foes in Michigan and Iowa to close the season, win two games in Indy, and bingo! The Illini should be back in the NCAA tourney. I never thought that would be possible during that horrid eight-game losing skid.
Listen to coach John Groce’s teleconference:
REALLY LONG SHOT: Indiana: 17-12 overall; 7-9 Big Ten
Strength of schedule: 60
Games left: Nebraska; at Michigan
Good wins: Washington; Wisconsin; Michigan; Iowa; Ohio State
Bad losses: Notre Dame; Northwestern; Penn State; at Purdue
NCAA recipe: The Hoosiers are killed by a putrid non-conference schedule and shameful RPI. But they get to close the season vs. quality opponents in Nebraska and Michigan. It’s called “opportunity.” Tom Crean’s club needs to win both of those—a tall task—and then win at least two in the Big Ten tourney. Or, IU could split its last two games and then win three in Indy. Just some combination of four more victories. Long odds, but ya have to dream, right? It’s amazing the Hoosiers are even in this spot.
Listen to coach Tom Crean’s teleconference:
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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